February 14, 2019
Dear Members of the Connecticut College Community,
The Connecticut College Board of Trustees convened for its winter meeting last weekend. Among the topics discussed were: student mental health and wellbeing; team advising; Title IX; the reaccreditation of the College by the New England Commission of Higher Education; progress on major facilities projects; the fiscal year 2020 budget; and Campaign fundraising.
Student Health and Wellbeing
The plenary session on Friday morning focused on student mental health and wellbeing. Dean of Students Victor Arcelus, Senior Associate Dean of Student Life Sarah Cardwell, and Director of Student Counseling and Health Services Janet Spoltore offered an overview of the extensive resources available to support student wellbeing during their time at Conn. They discussed national trends in student mental health as well as our own institutional data; the work we have been doing across campus to make wellbeing a part of skill-building for life; and the range of programs in place and in development to strengthen our education of the whole person.
Academic Affairs and Reaccreditation
The Committee on Academic Affairs met with Lyndsay Bratton, assistant director for digital scholarship, to discuss digital technologies in teaching and research. Professors Catherine Benoit and Anthony Graesch from the department of anthropology presented two innovative projects in digital scholarship they are developing. Trustees also conferred about the enthusiastic reaccreditation letter that the College received from the New England Commission of Higher Education, acknowledging the innovative work undertaken by the whole campus in the last decade to revitalize the liberal arts.
The Student Experience
Emily Chace Morash, associate dean of the College and dean of first-year students, and Geoff Norbert, assistant dean for student engagement and new student programs, led a discussion on the impact of team advising on the student experience. The Board also reviewed the College’s response to the proposed Title IX regulations put forth by the U.S. Department of Education; discussed a new coordinated approach to student learning across the divisions of Student Life, Dean of the College, and Institutional Equity and Inclusion; and reviewed initial design concepts for the renovation of the College Center at Crozier-Williams. The trustee-student liaison committee discussed strategies to improve student understanding of financial aid and to strengthen shared governance. Representatives from The College Voice, the Miss Connduct a capella group, and the newly conceived Outdoor Adventures club met with the committee to highlight their contributions to campus.
Capital Projects and Information Security
The Facilities and Infrastructure Committee reviewed several key projects, including the relocation of the Office of Career and Professional Development to the ground floor of Fanning Hall and evolving plans for Crozier-Williams and Palmer Auditorium. Several near-term projects were also discussed: improvements to the North Complex (the Plex) and the Bill Hall Behavioral Neuroscience laboratories and the installation of a new fuel cell on campus. Trustees met with members of the Information Services team to assess both completed projects, such as the new e-procurement system, and future projects, including replacing wireless ports in academic buildings and partnering with the division of College Advancement to implement a new customer relationship management (CRM) platform.
Finances, Summer Programs, and Fundraising
In the area of finance, the Board approved the parameters for the fiscal year 2020 budget. These include provisions for salary increases for faculty and staff, an increase in the comprehensive fee for 2019-20, and an increase in the financial aid allocation. The final budget will be approved by the Board in May.
Applications for admission are at a record high again this year, including the largest number of applications ever received for Early Decision. Looking toward the end-of-year admission cycle in May, trustees reviewed the strategy that will help us achieve ambitious enrollment goals for this year.
Finding new sources of revenue is a goal of our strategic plan, and Cheryl Miller, vice president for human resources and organizational development, described the work underway to activate the campus in the summer. The College recently signed a contract with iD Tech, the nation’s leading tech camp for youth ages 7-17, to provide six one-week camps starting in June on topics from robotics, game design, AI, and coding, with discounted fees for the children of Connecticut College employees. More information is forthcoming.
The trustees considered the results of our comprehensive Campaign, now in its second year, with $95 million raised to date and $15 million in new gifts and commitments already this year. The Advancement Committee also discussed the Connecticut College Fund, which has reached $4.2 million against a goal of $5.8 million for fiscal year 2019. Two trustees stepped forward during the weekend to announce a significant matching challenge for Founders Day events in April, to help motivate even greater participation and engagement from the Conn community.
Finally, the Board recognized 11 current trustees—Seth W. Alvord ’93, Bradford T. Brown, P’12, P’15, P’20, Jamie Glanton Costello ’89, T. Wilson Eglin ’86, Sarah H. Fenton ’63, DeFred G. Folts III ’82, Rob Hale ’88 P’20, Eric J. Kaplan ’85, Sharis Pozen ’86 P’19, Karen Quint ’87, and Peter Skaperdas P’17—for making generous five-year campaign commitments, as well as those who recently entered our Ad Astra society, with lifetime giving of $1 million or more. This second group includes trustees Brown, Eglin, Fenton, Folts, Hale, and trustee emerita and former chair of the board Pamela D. Zilly ’75. We are so grateful for their incredible generosity to the College.
On Friday, student peer health educators met with Board members for lunch; members of the Alumni Board mingled with them for a reception; and faculty leaders enjoyed a lively dinner meeting and conversation with them in the evening. On Saturday, the Board approved honorary degrees for this year’s Commencement speakers, Martin Chalfie and Tulle Hazelrigg, and voted to reappoint Debo Adegbile ’91 for an additional year as vice chair.